Address Their Problem with Your Value Proposition

Address Their Problem with Your Value Proposition

Whether or not you use presentations to persuade, sell, market or showcase, consider this simple question: If you’re presenting to a group of people, is it because you ultimately want them to do something? Even if you’re not selling a product or service, at least you want to persuade them to the merits of your point of view. You may want them to think differently or try a new approach.

Still, if you’re trying to convince people about something they’re not interested in, they won’t listen to you. So, when will people listen to you? They listen when you address their interest or their problem.

When and why do people buy? They buy when they are convinced that your solution or value proposition will solve their problem. They take action only when they are convinced.

In certain cases, you may need to create or highlight the problem for them. For example: “People don’t like to admit they’re living beyond their means. But if more than 10 percent of your household income is financing bad debt, then I’ve just alluded to you.” You’ve just created a problem in the mind of someone who may have been in denial one minute ago.

Remember, saying how your solution will solve their problem is far more enticing than describing what a product or service can do. Be sure to build your content based on this time-tested concept called “sell benefits, not features.” To help you do that, you can design your presentation using the following five steps:

  1. Outline the problem that audience members are dealing with.
  2. Describe both the current situation and the ideal situation.
  3. Show that the current situation can be improved.
  4. Outline how your solution creates the ideal situation.
  5. Show how adopting your solution will solve the problem.

The logic is quite simple. Why would people change their behavior or part with their money unless you’re solving their problems or satisfying their perceived needs? The rate of change or amount they spend is in proportion to their perception of the size of their problem, the consequences of not taking action, and the value of whatever solution they find.

Why do people spend money on luxury items when a basic item usually performs more than 90 percent of the required functions (for example, buying motor vehicles, TV sets and cell phones)? The answer is the same as above—that is, the more luxurious item satisfies their perceived need, even if that need is the desire to be seen as successful. Your ability to find an audience member’s “hot button”—in this case, a need for a high-end product—is your key to a decision in your favor.

The same principle applies in non-sales situations. For example, the young man who asks for his lady-love’s hand in marriage needs to satisfy her father’s desire to know that he’ll keep her safe and happy. His relationship with his future parents-in-law rests on his ability to persuade them of his intent and ability to do that.

The CEO needs to convince employees who are implementing a new strategy that they’ll overcome glitches in the production process (their problems), facilitate smoother operations (thus reduce their stress), and foster increased productivity and higher profits (bottom line).

By offering a value proposition that solves their problems, you’ll get your audience’s buy-in.

What Is Your Competitive Edge?

Two speakers are pitching for an engagement. They seem to offer exactly the same product of exactly the same quality at exactly the same price. You can only choose one speaker. Which would you choose?

When given a choice, people select, often in a split second, what they perceive will benefit them most, often regardless of the fee. In simple terms, they seek the “edge” that tips the scale on their decision- making—the “something” that’s most important to them. They believe their decision is logical, but often it’s a gut feel which even they cannot explain.

You can capture people’s attention by being different. Before you plan your presentation, identify your edge—the one factor that makes you stand out from your competitors. If you don’t have an edge, then what do you have?

Not surprisingly, you’ll find the same principle applies to selling an idea, a plan of action, or a viewpoint that encourages audience members to get involved.

Did It Deliver on Your Objective?

It’s wonderful to pull off a slick presentation knowing everything went well: You finished on time, you made emotional connections, and you felt people liked you. These are all good, but did you succeed in achieving these critical outcomes?

  • Did the audience understand your central point?
  • Did you clearly state your key objective?
  • Did you ask attendees to take action (ask for the business)?
  • Did your audience buy you and did you convince them?

Many seemingly good presentations actually fail to get the sale or persuade listeners to take the desired course of action. That’s why it’s critical to put a strong “outcomes strategy” in place before you start.

Put simply, at what stage will you ask people for your desired outcome and how will you close if they say “yes”? Prepare your presentation using these important steps—begin with the end in mind—and you’ve set a clear objective.

3 Typical Sales Scenarios

  1. SELLING YOUR BRAND – There are millions of people with a story to tell. A small percentage of those tell their story from the podium for a fee. That’s you, the professional speaker. Your story (sales proposition) needs to be compelling enough to be booked and then paid.
  2. SELLING YOUR CLIENT – Once your marketing or relationship building has gotten your foot in the door, you must convince the client that what you have to offer will make him rich or stave off bankruptcy. People will not pay for something unless they can see value; preferably far more than what they are paying for.
  3. SELLING YOUR AUDIENCE – You’ve been booked! Having overcome the two scenarios above, you must deliver a memorable speech. This takes research, preparation and practice. It must meet the client’s objectives and be a worthwhile experience for the audience. Most of the attendees were not involved in the initial two steps, so you must sell yourself all over again!


You receive a web inquiry. You have several possible outcomes:

  • You’re not booked.
  • You’re booked at a discount.
  • The client agrees to your full fee.
  • The client agrees to your fee and a copy of your related product for each delegate
  • The client agrees to your fee and a copy of a related product for each delegate and a back-of-the-room table.
  • You agree to no speaking fee, but a per delegate fee for a package of your products.

Apart from the first scenario, you’re in business. It is possible that at various times you may agree to every one of these options depending on the circumstances, context and stage of your career. You may be building your keynote and you want to speak as often as possible. Or you may want to build a relationship with the client for a training contract. Alternatively, you may want to pitch at your top rate to create a high-value perception up front.

It is important to clarify your objective to yourself before you name your price.

Once you are confident that you have a compelling value proposition, you’re in a position to decide the outcome in advance. If you ask the right questions and delay naming your fee until you have all the information you need, and you have found out the real reason they need you, you can solve their problem easily and put forward your sales proposition, because you now understand their problem.

Your fee must be commensurate with the value you provide. This is where you can “test the value” of your proposition. Whenever I conclude a contract, I state in writing that if my speech was not worth the fee in the client’s opinion, they can pay me only what they felt it was worth.

Paul du Toit
Paul du Toit, CSP, is a leading presentation skills coach, author of You Can Present with Confidence and managing director of Congruence Training operating from Sandton, South Africa, which he founded in 1995. He speaks on mindset shift, service and presenting.
Paul du Toit
Paul du Toit
Paul du Toit
Paul du Toit

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